Meditiaton: Plowing Under Weeds of Violence
…they shall beat their swords into plowshares,... Isaiah 2:4
Let me tell you about a school which teaches torture, execution, extortion, counterinsurgency, sniper training, psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. The school first opened in 1946 in Panama but in 1984 the former Panamanian President, Jorge Illueca, stated “…(it) was the “biggest base for destabilization in Latin America..” It was dubbed the “School of Assassins.” (http://www.soaw.org/new/type.php?type=8) Since its inception nearly 60,000 people have graduated and they have left a trail of blood and suffering where ever they operate.
What kind of “terrorist training camp” is this and where is it located? Perhaps this is one of those that the US military is seeking to destroy in Iraq or Iran. No, the school I am speaking of is at Ft. Benning Georgia. It is the School of the Americas. The school was closed briefly and then reopened in 2001 after its name was changed to “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” (WHISC). Brutal Latin American dictators, assassins and death squad leaders trained in the United States continue to commit crimes against humanity. Among their victims have been human rights workers, Priests, Nuns, farmers, teachers and children.
In June of this year an amendment was voted on to stop funding the school. The bill did not pass but 20 of those who opposed it have recently lost their seats in this last election. There is renewed hope that a similar bill in the near future will be successful. The desire to increase rather than decrease the activities of the SOA/WHISC was reported in an article by Barbara Slavin (USA Today, 11/15/06), “…. concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries…”
As followers of Christ we desire that swords are beaten into plowshares. Some understand this verse in Isaiah to refer to a world beyond earth but others believe we can act “on earth as it is in heaven.” Walter Burgmann wrote about the vision of Isaiah in his book Peace: Understanding Biblical Themes: “That is not simply a vision of a political arrangement nor a disarmament program, but the emergence of a new world, a new situation in which people are able to trust and to communicate enough so that they no longer need to be armed. God wills for the world – for our world – a center of justice and righteousness that will get our minds off our petty agenda and our penchant to protect our little investments. I find that vision overwhelming – and not very welcome, because the things I value most I am reluctant to lose or risk, and even more reluctant to share.
Prayer: Oh Lord who has the power to transform swords into plowshares and soften the human heart, we ask for courage to live on earth as we will live in heaven. We pray that our nation will cease to train foreign dictators and assassins who target the innocent.
This weekend 20,000 people are expected to be present for the annual SOA/ WHISC protest . The date coincides with the anniversary of the 1989 murder in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by graduates of the school.
On Sunday, there will be a solemn vigil and procession outside the gates of Fort Benning, Ga. There will be simultaneous, peaceful protests in Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Paraguay, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Fort Huachuca, Arizona. (http://www.soaw.org/new/pressrelease.php?id=121)
Learn about ongoing efforts to close the SOA?WHISC (http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=100 ) and how you can join in turning swords into plowshares. Contact your newly elected officials to vote on upcoming legislation to stop funding The School of the Americas. (WHISC)
If you are within driving distance consider joining the public witness today and tomorrow.